|4th Commissioner of Baseball|
November 17, 1965 – December 6, 1968
|Preceded by||Ford Frick|
|Succeeded by||Bowie Kuhn|
William Dole Eckert
January 20, 1909
|Died||April 16, 1971 (aged 62)|
Freeport, the Bahamas
|Education||United States Military Academy |
Harvard Business School
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch/service||United States Army Air Corps |
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1930–1961|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Medal|
Legion of Merit
Eckert, who grew up in Madison, Indiana, graduated from the United States Military Academy in June 1930. It was there Eckert earned the nickname "Spike" while playing football. He then attended the Air Corps Flying Schools at Brooks and Kelly Fields in San Antonio, Texas, graduating in October 1931 and was transferred to the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. Two months later he transferred to the United States Army Air Corps and was assigned to Selfridge Field, Michigan, for duty with the 36th Pursuit Squadron.
General Eckert, in April 1935, joined the 29th Pursuit Squadron at Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone.
In May 1937 he was named a flying instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Randolph Field, Texas.
In September 1938 he was selected as one of two officers for advanced education at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and in June 1940 graduated with a master's degree. He then was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio where he served successively as production executive, comptroller, and as executive of the Materiel Command.
In January 1944 General Eckert entered the Army and Navy Staff College. Upon graduation two months later he was assigned to Europe as commander of the 452nd Bomb Group. He later served in that theater as chief of maintenance and chief of supply of the Ninth Air Force Service Command.
General Eckert was assigned, in July 1945, as executive in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Materiel at Air Force headquarters, and later was appointed chief of the Readjustment and Procurement Division of that office. In November 1947 he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and two months later became executive to the undersecretary of the Air Force.
In April 1949 General Eckert became comptroller of Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and in October 1951 assumed additional duty as deputy commander of the Air Materiel Command.
General Eckert was transferred to Air Force headquarters in June 1952 for duty as assistant deputy chief of staff for materiel. Relieved of this assignment he reported to Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., July 15, 1956 to assume the duties of deputy commander (redesignated vice commander Nov. 5., 1956).
In 1957, at the age of 48, Eckert was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, making him the youngest three-star officer in the United States Armed Forces.
In February 1960 General Eckert was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force for duty as the comptroller of the Air Force, effective Feb. 1, 1960.
When he retired, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal
His military decorations also include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, and various foreign medals.
He was rated a command pilot and technical observer.
Just before becoming the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Eckert worked as a management consultant to the aviation industry. During this period, he served on the boards of directors of several corporations.
Tenure as Commissioner of Major League Baseball
More than 150 names appeared on the original list of nominees for the commissionership following Ford Frick's retirement. The club owners initially were unable to decide if the next commissioner should come from the ranks of the game (e.g., the president of the American or National Leagues), or elsewhere. They finally decided that the new commissioner should have a strong business background to deal with the problems that were confronting the game at the time.
Eckert had not appeared on any lists of prospective candidates at first. He only became a serious candidate for the commissionership after fellow officer Curtis LeMay gave Major League Baseball a recommendation for him. On November 17, 1965, by a unanimous vote of the then-20 major league club owners, William Eckert became the fourth Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
When he became commissioner, Eckert had not seen a game in person in over 10 years. He was almost completely unknown to the public, leading sportswriters to nickname him "the Unknown Soldier."
He incurred the public's ire by refusing to cancel games after the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and team owners' disdain because he refused to deal forcefully with substantive business issues. By 1968, the owners anticipated a players' strike, and had long since lost confidence in Eckert's ability to handle the situation. For this reason, Eckert was forced to resign at the end of the season, although he still had three years on his contract.
In spite of his much publicized failures and shortcomings, Eckert also developed more effective committee actions, streamlined business methods and helped stabilize franchises with bigger stadiums and long-term leases. In addition, Eckert worked hard toward promoting the game internationally, including a 1966 tour of Japan by the Los Angeles Dodgers.